Trapping, chemistry, and export of trace gases in the South Asian summer monsoon observed during CARIBIC flights in 2008
Abstract. The CARIBIC (Civil Aircraft for the Regular Investigation of the Atmosphere Based on an Instrument Container) passenger aircraft observatory performed in situ measurements at 10–12 km altitude in the South Asian summer monsoon anticyclone between June and September 2008. These measurements enable us to investigate this atmospheric region (which so far has mostly been observed from satellites) using the broad suite of trace gases and aerosol particles measured by CARIBIC. Elevated levels of a variety of atmospheric pollutants (e.g. carbon monoxide, total reactive nitrogen oxides, aerosol particles, and several volatile organic compounds) were recorded. The measurements provide detailed information about the chemical composition of air in different parts of the monsoon anticyclone, particularly of ozone precursors. While covering a range of 3500 km inside the monsoon anticyclone, CARIBIC observations show remarkable consistency, i.e. with distinct latitudinal patterns of trace gases during the entire monsoon period.
Using the CARIBIC trace gas and aerosol particle measurements in combination with the Lagrangian particle dispersion model FLEXPART, we investigated the characteristics of monsoon outflow and the chemical evolution of air masses during transport. The trajectory calculations indicate that these air masses originated mainly from South Asia and mainland Southeast Asia. Estimated photochemical ages of the air were found to agree well with transport times from a source region east of 90–95° E. The photochemical ages of the air in the southern part of the monsoon anticyclone were systematically younger (less than 7 days) and the air masses were mostly in an ozone-forming chemical mode. In its northern part the air masses were older (up to 13 days) and had unclear ozone formation or destruction potential. Based on analysis of forward trajectories, several receptor regions were identified. In addition to predominantly westward transport, we found evidence for efficient transport (within 10 days) to the Pacific and North America, particularly during June and September, and also of cross-tropopause exchange, which was strongest during June and July. Westward transport to Africa and further to the Mediterranean was the main pathway during July.